Clashes with wolves

Wis­con­sin wildlife is hounded with un­bear­able cru­elty

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion -

SUP­PRESS­ING FREE SPEECH

Joe Brown, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of doc­u­men­tary film­mak­ing at Mar­quette Univer­sity, emailed me the bear-bait­ing video. He’s not sure who sent it to him, but it prob­a­bly was sent by some­one aware that he’s cur­rently at work on Op­er­a­tion Wolf Pa­trol (wolf­pa­trolfilm.com), a doc­u­men­tary about the group of the same name.

Founded by an­i­mal-rights ac­tivist Rod Coron­ado, the group has vol­un­teers who hike into pop­u­lar hunt­ing ar­eas to doc­u­ment il­le­gal hunt­ing and atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by hun­ters. Such groups are es­pe­cially im­por­tant given that policing the state for wolf poach­ing is some­thing for which the thinly staffed Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources seems to lack the re­sources and the will.

Nat­u­rally, hun­ters don’t like the Wolf Pa­trol. Last year, they per­suaded the state to adopt a law that some dubbed the “Right to Hunt Act,” which pro­hibits peo­ple from pho­tograph­ing, video­tap­ing or record­ing hun­ters on pub­lic land. It was backed by the pow­er­ful Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker.

Of­fi­cially known as Wis­con­sin Act 346, the law closely re­sem­bles so-called “ag­gag” laws, which pro­hibit work­ers from doc­u­ment­ing the hor­rific con­di­tions and tor­ture of an­i­mals on so-called “fac­tory farms.” Courts have re­peat­edly found those laws un­con­sti­tu­tional be­cause they limit free speech.

Ear­lier this sum­mer, I be­came a plain­tiff — along with Brown and Wolf Pa­trol vol­un­teer Stephanie Losse — in a law­suit filed by the An­i­mal Le­gal De­fense Fund against Walker, for­mer DNR Sec­re­tary Cathy Stepp and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brad Schimel. The suit seeks to over­turn the “Right to Hunt Act” for vi­o­lat­ing the First Amend­ment’s free-speech guar­an­tee. It also seeks an in­junc­tion to pre­vent en­force­ment of the law.

ALDF direc­tor of lit­i­ga­tion Matthew Lieb­man says the right to try en­gag­ing some­one in con­ver­sa­tion is at the heart of the First Amend­ment. “To not be able to do that at the place that mat­ters most, the place where an­i­mals are be­ing killed, I think is a sig­nif­i­cant in­fringe­ment” on free speech, Lieb­man told The Associated Press.

But hun­ters claim the law is needed to pre­vent ac­tivists from ha­rass­ing them in ways that in­ter­fere with their “sport.” (Of course, in ac­tual sports, both sides know that they’re play­ing.)

Lieb­man coun­ters that laws al­ready in place pro­tect hun­ters and oth­ers from ha­rass­ment.

Iron­i­cally, hun­ters say they’re afraid of the Wolf Pa­trol, cit­ing

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